One month ago, 35 gifted lyricists, composers and librettists took up residency at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, CT for the first ever Johnny Mercer Writers Colony to participate in an environment of discovery and inspiration. Working in teams and housed in specially constructed quintessential New England two story cottages each equipped with a piano, the teams worked on over 30 musicals during the course of the month.
The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed is an unparalleled, long- term residency program devoted exclusively to musical theatre writing. It provides a sanctuary for composers, lyricists, and librettists to embark on new musical theatre work or to devote a substantial amount of time to a work-in-progress in an environment rich with creative energy. For four weeks, starting January 21, writers were immersed in this stimulating environment with the singular purpose of allowing the writers to write.
In partnership with the Johnny Mercer Foundation, Goodspeed offered established and emerging writers the unique opportunity to research, develop and create new musicals. Over the course of the four week program, numerous industry luminaries came to the campus serving as mentors for the many writing teams led by Jonathan Brielle, Writer/Producer in Residence and Vice President of the Board, Johnny Mercer Foundation; Bob Alwine, Associate Producer and Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, Line Producer for Goodspeed Musicals. Award-winning director Michael Bush served as Dramaturge/Mentor throughout the residency. Nick Eilerman, the project coordinator backed up by Rachel Sussman, was responsible for the smooth running of the Colony.
On Saturday February 16, the residency program concluded with a Salon as had been done each week featuring a sparkling sampler of new musicals that were worked on throughout the month. Donna Lynn Cooper Hiltonwelcomed the guests and immediately turned the evening over to the Jonathan Brielle who explained the workings of the program and in particular the role of Michael Bush who Brielle noted "didn't tell you what musical to write but helped us each find the show we wanted to write".
Scroll below for photos from the event!
Brielle himself noted how he had completely re-written the first act of his Nightmare Alley while there and performed two of the new songs he created. In rapid succession, the audience was treated to a potpourri of new works by some of the most inspiring young talents on the scene who have already been recognized in the industry with honors such as the Tony
Award, Emmy Award, Lucille Lortel Award, Lorenz Hart Award, Kleban Award, ASCAP's Harold Arlen Award, Fred Ebb Award, Jonathan Larson Fellowship, ASCAP Frederick Loewe Award, ASCAP Cole Porter Award for Music and Lyrics and The National Art Song Award, as well as special grants from the NEA. Quite a few are also alumni of the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project at Northwestern University.
The evening's program featured Ben Clark & Beth Turcotte's Circus in Winter; two musicals Gretl and Trinity by Aron Accurso & Adam Overett; Heidi & Gunter & Hansel & Gretl by Will Aronson, Hannah Kohl & Daniel Mate; Triangle by Thomas Mizer & Curtis Moore; Adam Lives by Rob Baungartner & Brandon Huldeen and closed with Swan Lake by Patrick Lundquist & Peter Seibert.
Among the guests were Janice Muirhead, Yale Drama School; Cherie King, of The Development Wing which has dedicated itself to nurturing new musicals via partnerships with regional not for profit theaters; songwriter Sam Willmott, winner of the 2012 Fred Ebb Award; producer
Michael Alden; Heather Schmucker producing director of the American Musical Theatre Project (AMTP) which presents the Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project at Northwestern University; Obie winning composer and lyricist Michael Friedman who is prepping for the New York Shakespeare Festival's Love's Labour's Lost with his Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson partner director-book writer Alex Timbers.
The start of the Writers Colony marks the realization of a long-held dream for Goodspeed Musicals. Thanks in part to the wonderful support of The Johnny Mercer Foundation, Goodspeed continues to be an incubator for the next generation of musical theatre artists and performers as well as the center for the American Musical.
Photo Credit: John Wegorzewski
Jonathan Brielle and production supervisor StEve Cohen
'Triangle' team Curtis Moore and Tom Mizer
Dramaturge-Mentor Michael Bush, Goodspeed Associate Producer Bob Alwine, Writer-Producer Jonathan Brielle
Johnny Mercer Writers Colony Project Coordinator Nick Eilerman
Janice Muirhead, Yale School of Drama
The Development Wing's Cherie King & husband writer-producer in residence Jonathan Brielle
Mercer Colony member & 2012 Fred Ebb Award winner Sam Willmott
Johnny Mercer Songwriter Project at Northwestern Director Heather Schmucker with alumni Sam Willmott
Writer Aron Accurso & Jack DePalma
Swan Lake writers Patrick Lundquist and Peter Seibert
Goodspeed Line Producer for Musicals Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton
Writer Ben Clark performs Muddy Waters form 'Circus in Winter'
Jonathan Brielle, Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, Michael Bush
Len Dingledine, Sean Cercone, Beth Turcotte, Kent Nicholson, Ben Clark
Anthony Cantalupo, Jason Najjoum, Michael Alden, Curtis Moore, Tom Mizer
Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project at Northwester Director Heather Schmucker and Nick Eilerman, Project Coordinator Johnny Mercer Writers Colony
Rachel Sussman, Nick Eilerman, Heather Schmucker